Economic Brief: All Eyes On Inflation For The Remainder Of 2022

Larry Swedroe economic brief all eyes on inflation

While there’s always uncertainty in the outlook for the economy and financial markets, a confluence of events has pushed the level of uncertainty to high levels, namely the Federal Reserve’s battle against inflation, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ongoing supply chain struggles. The markets have already priced in these risks, explaining why stocks and bonds have performed poorly this year.

Top Risks

We believe the two biggest risks to the economy are the war in Ukraine dragging on and inflation running hotter than markets expect. In addition, the effects of reduced fiscal stimulus, significantly tighter monetary policy and the stronger U.S. dollar are likely to result in slower economic growth, with in our opinion, the chance of recession in the next 12 months increasing to 30%-50%.

Sources of Stability

Although GDP growth is expected to slow, the unemployment rate should stay low through 2023 at around 3.6%. Monetary policy is still loose, with negative real rates of interest; there is still some fiscal stimulus; and both corporate and consumer balance sheets remain strong.

In The Spotlight

As the year began, many pinned their hopes on the economy shaking off the worst impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic—with expectations that reopening economies would ease supply chains and inflation. However, by midyear, it became clear that the ramifications aren’t abating as quickly as anticipated. In June, the consumer price index rose 9.1%, the fastest pace since 1981. Gasoline, housing prices and food were the largest contributors to this increase. The core index, which excludes food and energy, only fell slightly in June to 5.9% from 6.0% in May and well above where it was last June at 4.5%.

The Fed has responded to the sharp rise in inflation by hiking interest rates, though the June numbers may mean that the bank will speed up the pace of increases. Both stocks and bonds tend to perform poorly during high inflation regimes, like the one we are experiencing now. As such, financial plans should consider that there might be a negative impact on future economic growth, leading to lower equity returns.

consumer price index chart

Monetary Policy

The Fed has a difficult task in fighting inflation. The risk that the Fed is behind in tightening policy enough to slow inflation is growing, which could lead to the bank raising rates higher than the market expects. The Fed will also begin reducing its balance sheet by almost $100 billion a month in September, an unprecedented amount that could push rates higher than currently priced into the market—a negative for both stocks and bonds.

War in Ukraine

Economic sanctions on Russia have created further supply and inflation problems. Global supply chains rely on Russia for its oil and gas, wheat, and semiconductor exports. Russia is the main supplier of gas to several European countries, with Germany and Italy at greatest risk if Russia cuts off gas shipments to them. This would have a significantly negative impact on their economies, almost certainly producing a recession with global implications.

Supply Chains

The pandemic disrupted supply chains, leading to inflationary pressures. This has implications for markets because the globalization of supply chains had a deflationary impact on prices. Innovations like just-in-time inventory management—which provides the minimum amount of inventory to meet demand—led to improved productivity, profits and economic growth. Supply chains have yet to recover, which could lead to more onshoring, resulting in higher prices for consumers and lower corporate profits.

Labor Market

The tight labor market is contributing to inflation and could pressure corporate profits. The U.S.’s strong economic recovery since the pandemic downturn contributed to a tight labor market: almost two jobs are posted for every unemployed person, and the unemployment rate is down to 3.6%. Many workers also retired early during the pandemic, raising pressures on wages. The move to onshore jobs will add further tightness to the labor market, and higher wages could squeeze corporate profit margins.

Strength of U.S. Dollar

The stronger dollar has negative implications for global economic growth. As the Fed has raised interest rates faster than other central banks, the dollar has strengthened against other currencies. A stronger dollar makes U.S. exports more expensive for foreign buyers. Corporate profits may also take a hit because the stronger dollar weakens the earnings of U.S. multinationals. That could lead to lower earnings forecasts and lower price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios.

Consumer Confidence

There has been a sharp drop in consumer confidence. The Conference Board’s expectations index—based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions—fell to 66.4 in June, the lowest level since March 2013, from 73.7 in May, signaling increased risk of a recession. The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index also reached a record low of 50.0 in June. Lower consumer confidence could slow spending and economic growth.

Housing Costs

Housing costs, especially rents, keep rising. Housing represents about one-third of the CPI, and because of the way it is calculated, it works with a significant lag. Rents have been rising sharply and will likely continue to do so as housing supply is limited, and labor markets are strong. That will create upward pressure on rents and the CPI. Higher rents also could create a substantial burden on budgets and reduce consumer spending.

key economic indicators

Investment Planning Implications

Investors dislike uncertainty—when the risk of a negative outcome increases, they demand larger risk premiums, driving P/Es down. Although this means companies are expected to have lower earnings, lower stock valuations may provide opportunities for patient investors.

Empirical evidence demonstrates that buying stocks when investor sentiment is negative has led to much higher returns than when investor sentiment is positive. The logic is simple: negative sentiment leads to low prices, large risk premiums and high expected returns. Returns are likely to be poor only if predictions turn out to be worse than expected.

Unfortunately, since not even good forecasters can tell us what is going to happen, the best you can do is make sure your plan anticipates negative shocks appearing regularly and addresses risks you are most concerned about, reducing them to an acceptable level.

Investors should always build the risk of an unexpected “black swan” event into their plans.

For informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal, or tax advice. Certain information is based upon third party data which may become outdated or otherwise superseded without notice. Third party information is deemed to be reliable, but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor any other federal or state agency have approved, determined the accuracy, or confirmed the adequacy of this article.

© 2022 Buckingham Wealth Partners. Buckingham Strategic Wealth, LLC, & Buckingham Strategic Partners, LLC (Collectively, Buckingham Wealth Partners). R-22-4113

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The “4 Rs” of Behavior Finance

In his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” , psychologist Daniel Kahneman examines the two brain systems that drive the way we think while also shining light on the common biases that impact decision making. As it turns out, our brains are hard-wired to make fast, intuitive and emotional decisions shaped by our own biases and generalizations. These mental glitches, Kahneman proposed, make us feel like we are using good judgement even though the results of these impulsive decisions often get us into trouble. Without pausing to engage the rational area of the brain when faced with a big decision, especially financial ones, you risk causing more harm than good.

High levels of uncertainty about the economy, rising inflation, global supply chain disruption, soaring gas prices and expectations of increased market volatility can stoke fear in the minds of investors planning their financial futures. This may even cause some to consider sidestepping the risk of loss by making an impulsive change to their investment strategy. Building off Kahneman’s work and behavioral economics, strategies have been developed to help investors make better decisions during periods of instability.

A methodical framework for decision making can assist in slowing down responses, hopefully reducing the likelihood that emotions and irrational thinking will get in the way. The Kaplan Behavioral Financial Advisor (BFA) course has broken this process down into “The 4 Rs”:

R #1: Recognize the Situation

When you become overwhelmed, pause and take a moment to verbalize what you are feeling. Describe the reasons for these emotions and identify the actions you are considering. Think about any previous experiences that may be shaping your perception, such as the 2008 market crash. Try to assess whether you are in a clear state of mind and if your decision could derail a well-designed financial plan.

R #2: Reflect on Your Values

Do your best to zoom out your perspective and verbalize the big picture as well as your desired long-term financial outcomes. Consider if any biases are shaping your worldview and if those biases are potentially clouding your decision-making ability.

R#3: Reframe Your Viewpoint

Describe how this potential decision relates to your values, goals and moral principles. Bring the focus back to the long-term view and concentrate on what truly impacts the likelihood of success for your financial plan. Identify any instances where a market pullback creates opportunity such as investing cash reserves to “buy low”.

Think about how similar instances in market history played out:

  • Did markets recover?
  • Have you previously made a decision with your investments that didn’t pan out?
  • Is market volatility expected when invested for the long-term?
  • What would be the impact on your values and goals if you made this decision?

R#4: Respond Purposefully

Make an educated decision based on the overall picture, not the immediacy of a market drop or a perception that you know something about the market others do not. Seek counsel from your trusted financial advisor on the best decision for your situation.

The “4 Rs” approach is designed to help you make decisions that are emotionally reflective rather than emotionally reflexive. Remember, think SLOWLY! If you have questions about your portfolio, speak with your advisor about your concerns.

For informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal, or tax advice. By clicking on any of the links above, you acknowledge that they are solely for your convenience, and do not necessarily imply any affiliations, sponsorships, endorsements or representations whatsoever by us regarding third-party websites. We are not responsible for the content, availability or privacy policies of these sites, and shall not be responsible or liable for any information, opinions, advice, products or services available on or through them. Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor any other federal or state agency have approved, determined the accuracy, or confirmed the adequacy of this information. ©2022, Buckingham Strategic Partners. R-22-4070

About the author: As a divisional manager, Sean Brooks enjoys working with advisors in every area of their practice, from helping solve investment problems to sharing ways to run more efficient practices and build stronger client relationships. Prior to joining Buckingham, Sean was with AssetMark in a business development role, and he also worked as a banker and financial representative with JPMorgan Chase in Arizona and Illinois. Sean also spent time working as an estate planning consultant helping families avoid probate. He attended Loyola University of Chicago and earned a business degree in economics.

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Summer, Sun and Scams: Protect your Vacation from Fraud

The summer months kick off many seasons of happiness – the end of the school season for kids, BBQ season, baseball season (this is a happier time for some fans more than others) and vacation season. Over the next few months, millions of Americans will hit the road or take to the skies in search of fun, adventure, relaxation and quality family time.

Unfortunately, summer is a very profitable time for scammers and fraudsters looking to flip your summer holiday. While you’re booking airline tickets for your family, they are booking your hard-earned money into their bank account. Your trip can go from a fun-filled journey to a disastrous Griswold vacation in a blink of an eye.

According to a report published by the Federal Trade Commission, an astounding $92 million dollars were lost to vacation and travel fraud since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A majority of this amount stolen from Americans came from refunds and cancellations scams. From January 1, 2020 to June 15, 2022, U.S. consumers filed 58,580 reports centering around vacation and travel fraud. This amount is second only to online shopping fraud of 68,322 complaints.

The good news is you’re already equipped with the tools you need to prevent having your vacation ruined by fraud. The following tips won’t create shorter lines for the amusement park, keep bears away from your camper or stop your kids from asking “Are we there yet?”, but they can stop a criminal from gaining access to your dollars and sensitive information.

Copycat Airline Web Sites

When researching the best flight prices online, you see a great deal of significant savings with a major commercial airline. After booking the flight online or through the phone number listed, you receive a confirmation email that is missing a crucial piece of information – your pre-paid airline tickets.

In some cases, when you do receive your tickets, you will also receive a message that they are not valid due to a price increase. In order for your tickets to be finalized, you are forced to pay the additional charge. This tactic is something no legitimate company would ever do.

In either scenario, when you reach out to the airline, you discover your ticket was never booked or the flight doesn’t even exist.

To protect yourself:

  • Be cautious of third-party websites. These can appear to be legitimate when they are not. Go to www.BBB.org for reviews and see if the company has an actual physical address.
  • Double check the URL of the site before entering any information. Make sure the link is secure and starts with https:// with a lock icon on the purchase page.
  • Make all online purchases with a credit card as those charges can be disputed and you will be issued a refund.

Fake Apps

Every day, millions of people download legitimate apps from reputable companies. Scammers take advantage of the belief that a valid company is behind the software and create bogus apps that are focused on vacation and travel. They are designed to impersonate a genuine app, such for VRBO or Airbnb, and look almost undistinguishable from the real one.

Before downloading ANY app:

  • Be aware that while a fake app might have an identical logo to the real company, often the name or description will include a spelling error or typo, including the name of the app itself or developer.
  • Look at the number of downloads. For example, the real Airbnb app has been downloaded over a 100 million times. A fake app will have nothing close to that number – maybe just a few hundred.
  • Check out the reviews. Does it have more two-star than five-star ratings? If it is a fake app, there’s a great chance someone will leave a review warning others.
  • Review the permissions the app is requesting. Is it asking for authorization to things that seem unusual for a travel booking app, such as access to your calling history, microphone, camera, etc.

Other Tips

  • Before signing or paying for a trip, ask for a copy of the cancellation and refund policies. Any refusal or reluctance by the company to share these in advance means you should walk away.
  • Any travel or vacation package that asks you to pay with wire transfers, cryptocurrency or gift cards is a major red flag. If you use these forms of payment to secure your package, you will have no way to get your money back if there is an issue.
  • Just like other scams, if a vacation deal or rental property is not legit, the fraudster will try to rush you into making a decision. If you have time to think through what you’re signing up for, you’ll realize it is fake.
  • One of your best tools as always is your gut instincts. If you believe a travel or vacation offer seems to be good to be true or doesn’t make sense, it isn’t the real deal.

Scammers can quickly turn your dream vacation into your worst nightmare. By following these guidelines, you can protect your money – and your sanity. Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you want to learn more about preventing identity theft, protecting yourself from fraudulent activity and next steps if you are a victim, check out this recent Buckingham article.

With all of that in mind, enjoy this wonderful time of the year. Safe travels!

About the author: As the Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives at Buckingham Wealth Partners, Jared Hoffman is energized by the ever-changing challenges and opportunities he and his team face as they work to be a resource for departments throughout the organization. Jared helps advance the strategic plan by collaborating on internal and external technology rollouts, improving internal best practices through training and development opportunities and acting as a resource for projects and initiatives of all sizes to improve the overall client experience.

The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of Buckingham Strategic Partners®. This article is for general information only and is not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting or tax advice. Individuals should speak with qualified professionals based upon their individual circumstances. The analysis contained in this article may be based upon third-party information and may become outdated or otherwise superseded without notice. Third-party information is deemed to be reliable, but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed.

By clicking on any of the links above, you acknowledge that they are solely for your convenience, and do not necessarily imply any affiliations, sponsorships, endorsements or representations whatsoever by us regarding third-party websites. We are not responsible for the content, availability or privacy policies of these sites, and shall not be responsible or liable for any information, opinions, advice, products or services available on or through them. IRN-22-3989

© 2022 Buckingham Strategic Partners®

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A Guide to Federal Student Loan Forgiveness

The past six months have brought about some interesting, exciting and unexpected changes to student loan repayment. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Education (ED), the Biden Administration has completely overhauled the very fabric of federal student loan forgiveness with two critical announcements: the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Waiver and the recent changes to income-driven repayment (IDR) forgiveness. Considering the underwhelming lack of solutions proposed in past years, these relatively complex and piecemeal measures ought to be welcomed as a sign of positive change.

Many borrowers were both shocked and elated after the Department of Education announced the sixth extension of the student loan payment freeze in April. Even still, the same borrowers might be asking some very important questions: what exactly are these forgiveness programs, how do they impact me and what steps need to be taken to secure the full benefit of such proposals? If you’re ready for some answers, let’s dive in.

Part One: The PSLF Waiver

The U.S. Department of Education has become well-acquainted with the relentless (yet warranted) criticism from borrowers, advocacy groups and lawmakers on its failure to adequately manage and administer the PSLF program. To make amends for past misgivings, they announced on October 6, 2021, a limited PSLF waiver. This temporarily credits borrowers for past periods of repayment that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF. Boasting the change placed over 550,000 public service workers closer to loan forgiveness, the ED will temporarily count additional qualifying payments once excluded based on the type of loan (FFEL or Perkins) or disqualifying payment plan (standard, extended, etc.) towards the required 120 total qualifying payments.

Borrowers should note that the qualifying employment requirement has not changed and should confirm their employer’s qualifying status by completing the PSLF form with the PSLF Help Tool.

The Nitty-Gritty Details

Previously ineligible loan types and amounts are temporarily allowable:

  • The limited waiver allows for all payments made on all federal loan types while working for qualifying employers to count, e.g., Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), Perkins or other federal student loans. Payments will count for disbursements made towards previously consolidated ineligible loans (with the exception of jointly owned FFEL loans).
  • Any payment made while working for a qualifying employer will count, even late payments. The only periods that don’t count are periods of deferment (of less than 12 months), forbearance or default.
  • Grad Plus and Parent Plus loans are also included in the waiver.
  • Borrowers who have already completed 120 payments under the limited waiver are not required to continue to work in the public interest while awaiting loan forgiveness.

All repayment plans count:

  • The limited waiver provides credit to borrowers for payments made under any repayment plan, provided the borrower was working full-time (30 hours/week) for a qualifying employer.
  • This waiver applies whether a borrower repaid federal loans through graduated repayment, extended repayment, consolidated repayment, standard repayment or any of the other plethora of options.

Action Items to Note

Consolidate ineligible loans:

  • Federal loans that are ineligible for PSLF must be consolidated into a Direct Loan by October 31, 2022, to receive credit under the limited waiver. FFEL, Perkins or other previously ineligible federal loans must be included in a direct consolidation to get credit.
  • Borrowers can complete a direct consolidation of one ineligible loan to a Direct Loan. You do not have to combine two loans for the consolidation to count.

Submit an employment certification form (ECF) or PSLF form:

If you currently or at any point worked for a qualifying employer but did not certify your employment either due to ineligible loan types or an ineligible repayment plan, you must then submit a PSLF form to FedLoan Servicing for all periods of qualifying employment.

  • You are a part of this group if you have only Direct Loans but are not assigned to FedLoan Servicing or if you are assigned to FedLoan Servicing and have never submitted a form for the PSLF Program. You can’t get credit under these flexible rules unless you file a PSLF form by October 31, 2022.

Verify your PSLF count:

  • If you have only Direct Loans and all of them are assigned to FedLoan Servicing, you’ve most likely submitted an Employment Certification or a PSLF form. Automatic credit will be granted only if the employer listed on your form was determined to be a qualifying employer.
  • If you worked full time for a qualifying employer from 2008–2010 but did not submit a form because you had not yet consolidated your loans, you’ll still need to submit a PSLF form to get credit for those payments.
  • If you’re not sure why your prior payments were denied, check your account details online at or fill out a new PSLF form. You can also request a written payment history from FedLoan if your eligible or qualified payment count is incorrect.

Part Two: Income-Driven Repayment Plan Reform and a One-Time Adjustment Towards Forgiveness

The Biden administration announced a massive IDR waiver program on April 19, 2022, similar to the PSLF waiver program. The ED estimates that this action will result in automatic debt cancellation for at least 40,000 borrowers under PSLF and several thousand borrowers under IDR. More than 3.6 million borrowers will receive at least three years of additional credit toward forgiveness under IDR.

Most importantly, all forgiveness granted between now and January 1, 2026, will be forgiven income tax-free, whereas the total loan amount forgiven under IDR would have otherwise been included in a borrower’s adjusted gross income. This means that an estimated 10-15% of all current loan holders will be granted either immediate or eventual tax-free forgiveness under the revised guidelines for IDR plan forgiveness.

The Nitty-Gritty Details

The changes announced by the ED are aimed to bring borrowers closer to forgiveness under income-driven repayment (IDR) plans after either 20 or 25 years of repayment. It applies to borrowers pursuing 20 and 25-year IDR programs as well as those pursuing PSLF. Whether a borrower qualifies for this forgiveness depends on their current Income-driven repayment plan.

They will also count payments made before a consolidation. Additional loan counts will also benefit holders of Parent PLUS Loans and FFEL once consolidated. Consolidations need to take place before January 1, 2023.

One-time payment count revision for eligible IDR borrowers:

  • As part of this initiative, ED will conduct a one-time revision of IDR-qualifying payments for all Federal Direct Loan Program and federally managed FFEL program loans.
  • ED will conduct a one-time account adjustment to borrower accounts that will count time toward IDR forgiveness, including:
    • Any months in which a borrower had time in a repayment status, regardless of the payments made, loan type or repayment plan.
    • Twelve or more months of consecutive forbearance or 36 or more months of cumulative forbearance toward IDR and PSLF forgiveness.
    • Months spent in deferment (with the exception of in-school deferment) prior to 2013.
    • Any time in repayment prior to consolidation on consolidated loans.
  • Any borrower with loans that have accumulated time in repayment of at least 20 or 25 years will see automatic forgiveness, even if they are not currently on an IDR plan.
  • If a borrower made qualifying payments that exceed forgiveness thresholds of 20 or 25 years, they will receive a refund for their overpayment.
  • Borrowers who were steered into shorter-term forbearances will be able to seek account review by filing a complaint with the FSA Ombudsman at StudentAid.gov/feedback.

Permanent fixes to IDR payment counting:

  • In addition to issuing new guidance to student loan servicers to ensure accurate and uniform payment counting practices, ED will track payment counts in their own modernized data systems.
  • In 2023, FSA will begin displaying IDR payment counts on StudentAid.gov so borrowers can view their progress after logging into their accounts.

Effects on PSLF applicants:

  • If a borrower has applied or will apply for PSLF, these changes may have an impact by increasing their qualifying payment count.
  • If a borrower has 12 or more months of consecutive forbearance or 36 or more months of cumulative forbearance, they will receive PSLF credit for those periods of time if they certify qualifying employment.

Action Items to Note

While no immediate action is needed at this time (due to a lack of clarifying information from the ED), additional steps could be needed by borrowers soon. If borrowers do not want to wait until 2023 for FSA to display their payment count, they can request a written payment history from the loan servicer. Depending on the loan servicer, borrowers might be able to see most of their history already displayed online.

If you are working toward IDR plan forgiveness or already have accumulated 20 or 25 years of student loan payments, take a moment to celebrate this rather unprecedented but good news.

Knowledge is Power

By taking a piecemeal approach, the Biden administration has expanded existing loan forgiveness programs two-fold. Borrowers can empower themselves and their student loan forgiveness strategy by staying informed, being vigilant and taking action. However, there are many intricacies in this new legislation. If you have questions about your student loans, Buckingham would love to help! Schedule a short consultation with us today.

For informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal, or tax advice. Certain information is based upon third party information which may become outdated or otherwise superseded without notice. Third party information is deemed to be reliable, but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. By clicking on any of the links above, you acknowledge that they are solely for your convenience, and do not necessarily imply any affiliations, sponsorships, endorsements or representations whatsoever by us regarding third-party websites. We are not responsible for the content, availability or privacy policies of these sites, and shall not be responsible or liable for any information, opinions, advice, products or services available on or through them. The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of the Buckingham Strategic Partners®. IRN-22-3744

© 2022 Buckingham Strategic Partners®

This commentary originally appeared May 12, 2022 on thestreet.com.

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Prepare Your Portfolio for Midterm Elections

Prepare Your Portfolio for Midterm Elections

Midterm elections are just a few months away. This can mean only one thing … a flurry of political ads interrupting your favorite television shows.

All jokes aside, you can also expect to see plenty of platforms built around the President’s handling of the pandemic, the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and our current economic landscape. With inflation at a 40-year high and the expectation that the Federal Reserve will aggressively raise their key short term lending rate by the end of the year, voters will likely be tuned into how each party plans to handle the precarious position of our economy.

No one has a crystal ball to see how the election will turn out. But I have learned one thing throughout the years: the financial media will be quick to pick apart both party’s suggested policies and their potential impact to different areas of the stock market. You’ll hear statistics over the next few months conjecturing that a change in congressional control will create investment opportunities. Many of those articles will go on to suggest that you should reposition your portfolio to take advantage of the changing agenda in Washington. However, one of my favorite sayings is that there’s nothing new in investing, just investment history we don’t yet know. Before you make any changes to your portfolio, consider what we can learn from history.

Change in Seats - Midterm Elections

Graph 1: Change in number of seats controlled by the president’s party in both the House of Representatives and the Senate during the midterm elections since 1934. Election changes highlighted in yellow indicate a change in control of the respective part of Congress. Source: The American Presidency Project.

Graph 1 shows the change in the number of seats for the president’s party in midterm elections since 1934. Recent history has favored the challenging party, with the president’s party losing an average of 27 seats in the House during 19 of the last 22 midterm elections and losing an average of three Senate seats in 15 of those elections. Note that not every loss of seats meant a loss of control as many of those years saw the presidential party maintain majority in Congress. However, over the last roughly 90 years, the challenging party has retaken some ground in the midterm elections.

So, what does this mean for your portfolio? I’ll offer three points to consider.

First, even if control of Congress changes, remember that this is expected. Many theories exist as to why this happens, including a higher motivation of supporters of the challenging party, lower turn out in the midterms and dipping approval rating of the president. The key takeaway is that history teaches us to expect a loss of seats for the president’s party. Stock prices quickly respond to information and the expected impact to the future profits of companies, so we can reasonably assume this expectation is baked into current stock prices. We can still see the prices of stocks move the day after an election as we move from “what was expected to happen” to “what actually happened”. The bottom line: we shouldn’t expect huge swings if Democrats lose seats in Congress.

Hypothetical Growth of 1000 Through Control of Congress

Graph 2: Hypothetical growth of $1,000 invested in the U.S. Total Stock Market beginning January 1934 and ending December 2021. Periods when the Democratic party controlled Congress are shaded blue, periods when the Republican party controlled Congress are shaded red and times when the House and Senate were controlled by different parties are indicated by the red/blue combo. Source: Ken French Data Library, house.gov and senate.gov. U.S. Market is a value weighted return of all CRSP firms incorporated in the U.S. and listed on the NYSE, AMEX, or NASDAQ. Indices are not available for direct investment. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio nor do indices represent results of actual trading. Information from sources deemed reliable, but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Performance is historical and does not guarantee future results. Total return includes reinvestment of dividends and capital gains.

The second key point to remember is that there has been no reliable pattern between a change in the control of Congress or president and the future returns in the market. Graph 2 shows us that a hypothetical $1,000 invested in U.S. stocks at the beginning of 1934 would have grown to over $11 million dollars by the end of 2021. On average, we’ve seen positive returns for U.S. stocks during years when Republicans controlled Congress, positive returns during years when Democrats controlled Congress and positive returns when Congress was split. Elections where we’ve seen a change in power in either part of Congress have been followed by a positive year in the stock market each time it happened. That’s not to say the opposite can’t happen – it just hasn’t happened over the last 90 years. Although I certainly see headwinds to the growth of U.S. stocks over the next few years (like high valuations, rising cost of debt and tighter budgets for consumers), the impact of a change in control of Congress isn’t high on that list.

Watch for Bigger Price Swings Leading Up To Election Day

Graph 3: The average number of trading days in which U.S. stocks moved by more than 1%, split between election years and non-election years. Election years include years with either a midterm or presidential election. Source: Ken French Data Library. U.S. Market is a value weighted return of all CRSP firms incorporated in the U.S. and listed on the NYSE, AMEX, or NASDAQ.

The final point to consider is that markets don’t respond well to uncertainty. The bigger the impact of the event and the more uncertain the outcome, the more swings we should expect in stock prices. Graph 3 shows that since 1934, the average number of trading days where U.S. stocks moved by more than 1%. Election campaigns tend to surface new policies that are at odds with the current administration. Investors must reconcile both the likelihood that the challenging party will take power and the possibility the suggested policies will be implemented with the overall impact to potential growth for companies and our economy. That’s a lot of “ifs”. This added uncertainty has historically translated into more stock price volatility. So don’t be surprised if you see more bumpiness in markets leading up to election day – that’s what has happened historically and should be expected.

Given the three considerations above, the natural question is what should you do with your portfolio? The answer: stick to your plan. Investing should always start with a plan where you define what you hope to accomplish with your money and your investments. Everyone wants to see their portfolio grow, but most investors fail not during times of growth, but by panic selling when their portfolio starts to decline.

So rather than trying to reposition your portfolio to capture slightly better returns, flip the question: what are you concerned about with the next election (or now for that matter)?

  • Are you worried that we’ll see a big selloff in stocks? Then you may want to look at adding high quality fixed income or sensible alternative strategies that can help mitigate the risk of stocks falling.
  • Are you concerned about higher costs of living as you grow older? Consider investment options that respond positively when there’s high unexpected inflation, such as TIPS.
  • Are you concerned that U.S. stocks won’t be able to continue their impressive performance? International stocks offer much more attractive valuations; consider adding more foreign companies to your portfolio.

Investing always involves risk – that’s why we expect positive returns – but you can build a portfolio to weather all types of market environments. When you create a portfolio that is designed around your concerns, you can focus on the candidates’ policies and vote confidently without worrying about how the outcome will impact your portfolio.

No one can predict the future, but we can plan for it. History has shown us that the market will fluctuate in response to changes in Congress and the uncertainty of elections. By staying the course, you can weather the changes that may happen.

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